HCBE Faculty Articles

Disharmony in New Harmony: Insights from the Narcissistic Leadership of Robert Owen

Document Type


Publication Title

Journal of Management History



Publication Date



Purpose The purpose of this study is to narratively explore the influence of leader narcissism on leader/follower social exchange. Moreover, while researchers acknowledge that narcissistic personality is a dimensional construct, the preponderance of extant literature approaches the concept of narcissistic leadership categorically by focusing on the reactive or constructive narcissistic extremes. This bimodal emphasis ignores self-deceptive forms of narcissistic leadership, where vision orientation and communication could differ from leaders with more reactive or constructive narcissistic personalities. Design/methodology/approach The authors argue that they encountered a compelling example of a communal, self-deceiving narcissist during archival research of Robert Owen’s collective experiment at New Harmony, Indiana. To explore Owen’s narcissistic leadership, they utilize an analytically structured history approach to interpret his leadership, as he conveyed his vision of social reform in America. Findings Approaching data from a ‘history to theory’ perspective and via a communicative lens, the authors use insights from their abductive analysis to advance a cross-paradigm, communication-centered process model of narcissistic leadership that accounts for the full dimensional nature of leader narcissism and the relational aspects of narcissistic leadership. Research limitations/implications Scholars maintaining a positivist stance might consider this method a limitation, as historical case-based research places greater emphasis on reflexivity than replication. However, from a constructionist perspective, a focus on generalization might be considered inappropriate or premature, potentially hampering the revelation of insights. Originality/value Through a multi-paradigmatic analysis of the historical case of Robert Owen and his visionary communal experiment at New Harmony, the authors contribute to the extant literature by elaborating a comprehensive, dimensional and relational process framework of narcissistic leadership. In doing so, the authors have heeded calls to better delineate leader narcissism, embrace process and relational aspects of leadership and consider leader communication as constitutive of leadership.







First Page


Last Page


This document is currently not available here.

Peer Reviewed

Find in your library